The Utah Athletic Department ended fiscal 2021 with a deficit of $31 million

Fiscal 2021 included a five-game 2020 football season, which was played without fans in Pac-12 stadiums.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cardboard cutout fans in the stands as the Utah Utes host the USC Trojans, NCAA football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, November 21, 2020.

As the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened a full season of college football in 2020, the possibility of a shortened, if not canceled, season made at least one thing clear at the University of Utah.

The Utah Athletic Department was going to end fiscal year 2021 with a significant budget deficit — it was just a matter of size.

Now we know.

The Utes ended fiscal 2021, which included the 2020 football season and 2020-21 basketball season, with a budget shortfall just north of $31 million versus an operating budget over that period of approximately $82 million. That’s according to the school’s NCAA income and expense report for the last fiscal year, which was released late last week.

That’s a big number, although it’s slightly lower than officials originally expected. Utes athletic director Mark Harlan originally predicted a deficit of $50-60 million. This prediction came in August 2020, the day after the Pac-12 postponed all sports, including football, until at least January 1. this postponement, instead of starting the football season in October. After two COVID-related cancellations against Arizona and UCLA, the Utes ended up playing a truncated five-game 2020 schedule without fans, per the Pac-12 mandate.

Some of the specific revenue losses are glaring compared to previous years.

Since the Pac-12 mandate does not allow fans, football and the two basketball programs combined generate no ticket revenue, while gymnastics, which traditionally fills the 15,000-seat Huntsman Center , is listed as having $582 in ticket sales. These four programs accounted for approximately $17.7 million in ticket sales the previous year. Of that, football accounted for 86% during the 2019 season, which saw the Utes finish 7-0 at Rice-Eccles Stadium and 11-1 in the regular season.

The athletic department uses the donations to “subsidize student-athlete scholarships, facility upgrades and academic support.” These also decreased across the board, from approximately $11.7 million in fiscal year 2020 to approximately $7.9 million in fiscal year 2021.

To be clear, all revenue streams were down, including media rights and Pac-12 distribution, but Utah ending fiscal 2021 that’s deep in the red understands that the Athletic Department received $5,933,069 in tuition and an additional $4,862,896 in direct institutional support, which includes “facilities, general and administrative, and Title IX support.” Both of these numbers are on par with what the Athletic Department received in fiscal year 2020.

The department notes in its financial report that it receives funds from the state in the form of tuition waivers, Title 53, special and continuing scholarships.

An operating budget of $82 million, which is low compared to the past five years, means Utah has saved money in some places.

A five-game football program included only two road games, so football-related travel was 56% less expensive compared to fiscal year 2020. The entire athletic department spent $2 million fewer trips year over year.

Recruiting spending was also reduced given that the NCAA’s months-long in-person contact ban was not lifted until June 1, 2021. While Utah football spent $738,446 recruiting in fiscal year 2020 a lower than normal number after the in-person ban took place in the last few months of this fiscal year, it only spent $214,850 in fiscal year 2021 .

Harlan said in June that the athletic department was working with central campus to manage the deficit. At the time, he called the situation a “multi-year approach,” but it’s unclear exactly how the athletic department is working with central campus on the deficit.

“What excites me is that it’s not going to restrict everything we want to do in the future and as we move into this next year and beyond,” Harlan said at the time. “With the excellent work of the university leadership, understanding the importance of our department, understanding that we are one Utah in the way we approach it, we will work together and nothing will stop us from achieving all of our goals. “

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